ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Seventy-three-year-old Joe Floyd figures God is leaving him around for a purpose. He points to a list of happenstances — including missing Pearl Harbor and falling backward off a 12-foot ladder in 1995 — that confirm his opinion.
A hernia operation kept him from joining the Air Force in May 1941, which would have put him in Hawaii by December. He joined in August instead and eventually was sent to England. As for the fall, Floyd was picking pecans in his backyard when he slipped off the ladder and fell backwards, landing on his head. He still does not remember the fall.
Add in a near fatal ruptured spleen and a brain hemorrhage that doctors say should have partially paralyzed him and Floyd says he feels pretty blessed.
“I figure since I didn’t die, God’s got something for me,” Floyd says after detailing his brushes with disaster. “For God to see me through all that, he wants me to join him where he’s working.”
The Alexandria, La., resident continues to look for places to serve. He volunteers his time with many Baptist and evangelistic causes, as well as local charities and community groups.
For Floyd, such involvement should be the norm for Christians. “I don’t understand people who can sit home and not do anything,” he says.
“He has done work like this all his life,” says Joe Kite, recently retired pastor of Parkview Baptist Church where Floyd and his wife, Ellen, attend. “He has had a lifelong impact on so many lives.”
Many of those lives were impacted while Floyd was stationed overseas with the Air Force during the 1950s and 1960s. While stationed in England from 1964-67, for example, the Floyds hosted airmen in their home on Sunday nights after church. They also hosted a nightly devotional for anyone who wanted to attend.
“We figure we had about 50 men in our homes on some Sunday nights,” Floyd remembers. “We think back and wonder, How in the world could we ever afford to feed that many?”
Two of the men are now full-time ministers. “We really have no way of knowing how many of them were not Christians that accepted Christ,” the retired airman says.
Wherever Floyd was stationed he always found Christians and became a part of their work. “It was real interesting to know wherever you go, God is there,” he says.
In his final assignment, to Thailand in 1971, where one of the staff sergeants was also a Baptist preacher. “Every week I was there, there was at least one airman to make a profession of faith,” Floyd says. “I’ve never seen anything like it in the Air Force.”
After retiring from the Air Force in 1972 and with their three daughters grown, Floyd attended Louisiana College in Alexandria where he earned a mathematics degree. While he was there, his wife became director of Cottingham Hall, the women’s dormitory.
She became friends with the school nurse, who encouraged the couple to volunteer as houseparents for missionary kids overseas. As Floyd recalls it, she was rather persistent in her encouragement.
Her urgings led the couple to go to Zambia in 1979 as Mission Service Corp volunteers with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, serving as house parents. While there, Floyd was in an auto accident in which a local man was killed. Though not at fault, Floyd was charged with causing death by an accident (vehicular homicide in the United States).
At first, Floyd was not going to be allowed to leave the country when his time of service was over, but a Christian judge was understanding. “He said, ‘If you can’t trust a missionary, who can you trust?'” Floyd recounts.
Floyd returned to Zambia several months later and his charge was reduced to the equivalent of reckless driving.
The experience opened his eyes to the power of prayer, Floyd says. “I found out later that my name went all over the world,” through the Foreign Mission Board’s prayer network.
“We had more spiritual growth after the wreck than before,” Ellen Floyd says. Still, she remembers her impatience at the pace of the whole process. “God took his time,” she says.
Kite says the Floyds have not lost their zeal for missions. “They are so very faithful to all kinds of mission work. He has an attitude of doing everything he can to rally a congregation toward mission work,” the retired pastor says.
The couple volunteers in a number of areas, including leading lay renewal and Experiencing God weekends and taking part in Campers on Mission work projects.
He serves on the state convention’s disaster relief team and maintains the disaster relief equipment housed at the Baptist Building. He volunteers at Promise Keepers events. He was also active in a prison ministry at the local jail before his fall forced him to give that up.
Floyd does not confine his volunteer service to Baptist causes. He serves as the church representative on the board of directors of The Shepherd Center, a community ministry center which offers assistance to low-income people. He also serves on the board of the Rapides Parish Library and is active in the Gideon organization.
“Church members need to be involved in the community as much as they can,” Floyd says. “Church members can be great witnesses among non-Christians in that environment if they act Christlike.”